I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. Finally, Kill Dil is available for streaming. I liked this stylish flick from 2014 a lot more than most Bollywood gangster movies.
What stands out most on my Top Ten list for 2013 is the diversity of genres represented. No matter what you’re in the mood for, there’s a really good movie on this list. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Want a fun teen dance flick? Check out ABCD: Any Body Can Dance.
Looking for a good sports movie or biopic? Try Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
In the mood for a family drama set in the underworld? You’ve gotta see Aurangzeb.
In addition to the great variety on the list, all the movies mentioned are accessible to an international audience. Familiarity with Hindi movies and their structure may enhance one’s appreciation of Phata Poster Nikla Hero or Commando: A One Man Army, but a lack of prior experience shouldn’t keep Bollywood newcomers from enjoying them. In fact, Commando‘s best selling point is that it’s a martial arts action flick with a romantic dance number in the middle.
2013 was a great year for films featuring ensemble casts. Movies like Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and D-Day showcase the work of veteran stars, while Shuddh Desi Romance and Kai Po Che! — both of which star Sushant Singh Rajput — feature up-and-comers with bright futures ahead of them.
D-Day also features my single favorite scene in any movie from 2013: a heartbreaking song montage about the doomed relationship between an assassin (Arjun Rampal) and a prostitute (Shruti Haasan).
Writers Vikramaditya Motwane and Bhavani Iyer took a short story by O. Henry and adapted it to depict a tumultuous time period in India, as family fortunes were dismantled in the years following partition. Imagine trying to cope with the heightened emotions of first love while your way of life is turned on its head. Such are the circumstances for Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and her beau, Varun (Ranveer Singh).
Fans of Victorian literature or contemporary period dramas like Downton Abbey: Lootera is made for you.
Best Bollywood Movies of 2013
- Lootera — Buy at Amazon
- D-Day — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Kai Po Che! — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola — Buy/rent at Amazon
- Shuddh Desi Romance — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Commando: A One Man Army — Buy at Amazon
- ABCD: Any Body Can Dance — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Aurangzeb — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Bhaag Milkha Bhaag — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Phata Poster Nikla Hero — Buy at Amazon
Previous Best Movies Lists
Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is now available for streaming on Netflix. I love this quirky comedy from earlier this year. Here’s a link to Netflix’s current “Bollywood” catalog (they have a separate category for “Hindi-Language” films that’s mostly the same thing).
A few movies in Eros Now’s “Coming Soon” section have confirmed dates for when they will become available on the streaming service. Those include: Welcome to Sajjanpur (November 8), Paan Singh Tomar (November 15), No One Killed Jessica (November 15), and Aamir (November 22).
Of all the movies that I never needed to see, a sequel to 2008’s idiotic Race is near the top of my list. Nevertheless, Race 2 hits the big screen on January 25, 2013. Let’s hope Deepika Padukone and Jacqueline Fernandez can help returnees Saif Ali Khan and Anil Kapoor make this Race a more enjoyable experience than the first one.
Race 2 opens on Friday at five Chicago area theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.
The only other Hindi film showing locally is Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, which gets a third week at the South Barrington 30.
Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Naayak (Telugu), Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (Telugu), Tu Mera 22 Main Tera 22 (Punjabi), and both the Tamil and Telugu versions of Vishwaroopam.
One new Hindi movie opens in the Chicago area on January 18, 2013, and it’s about as low-profile as you get. Mumbai Mirror stars nobody I’ve heard of besides Prakash Raj, who plays the film’s villain.
While I don’t have the U.S opening weekend earnings figures for Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, they presumably weren’t good. The film drops from the schedules at three local theaters, only carrying over at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and AMC River East 21 in Chicago.
Other Indian films showing in the area this weekend include Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (aka SVSC, Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5, River East 21, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge; Naayak (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5 and Seven Bridges; and Bavuttiyude Namathil (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5. Thanks to the Cinemark at Seven Bridges for noting at their website that both of the Telugu movies are being shown without English subtitles.
In my attempt to find the best way to explain why I like an unconventional movie like Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola as much as I do, I found my answer in my review of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s previous effort, the magnificent 7 Khoon Maaf:
“7 Khoon Maaf is an all-or-nothing film. It either works for you or it doesn’t. Its strangeness will be a turn-off for some viewers, while others will lament a lack of explosive action scenes. But, if you’re in the mood for something a little different, beware: Susanna might just steal your heart.”
I feel the same way about Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM, henceforth). I love it, but I understand why some people won’t. It’s a slow burn, with characters that are hard to pin down and a few odd elements that have to be accepted on faith rather than understood with reason. I think it’s fabulous.
The plot of MKBKM is the opposite of high-concept. In short, the story is about a wealthy man’s attempt to convert his land and the small village that sits on it into a massive factory, shopping mall, and apartment complex. Naturally, the villagers object to the plan, as do the man’s servants, his daughter, and strangely enough, the man himself.
See, the rich man, Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) has a dual personality: he’s a ruthless, ambitious tycoon in the sober light of day, and a populist by night, once he starts drinking. His handler, Matru (Imran Khan), is supposed to keep Mandola away from liquor. But Matru has little incentive to do so, as Mandola is a nicer guy when he’s drunk. Early in the film, an inebriated Mandola leads the villagers in a protest outside the gates of his own mansion, until he sobers up and realizes what he’s doing.
Mandola wants the factory in part to woo a fetching government minister, Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi), and also to secure a prosperous future for his only daughter, Bijlee (Anushka Sharma). He’s gone so far as to get Bijlee engaged to the minister’s son, Baadal (Arya Babbar), who, Matru repeatedly reminds Bijlee, is an idiot. Matru and Bijlee are, of course, a far more appropriate couple, despite their differences in economic class.
Bhardwaj includes a number of quirky elements in the film to elevate it beyond a simple parable about the dangers of progress at any cost. A scene in which Mandola confirms his plans with Chaudhari explicitly evokes images of the witches in Macbeth and takes place amid ruins on a hilltop reminiscent of Weathertop in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Promos for MKBKM featured one of the recurring visual themes: a life-sized hot pink buffalo that Mandola sees whenever his longing for his beloved liquor becomes too strong.
My favorite oddball touch is the way Bhardwaj deals with something that would’ve been a throw-away gag in any other movie. When Baadal first sees Bijlee in the movie, he’s accompanied by an African folk dance group that he purchased in an attempt to impress her. Rather than just disappear after the joke is over, the folk group remains through the rest of the film. They take over a room in Mandola’s mansion, join in dance numbers, and protest alongside the villagers.
That detail alone makes the movie for me. What else would one expect to happen to a foreign dance group transported to rural India? Bhardwaj — who co-wrote the screenplay with Abhishek Chaubey — takes a practical problem and turns it to his advantage.
The performances are great throughout: Pankaj Kapur growls his way through his dialog as cantankerous Mandola; Anushka Sharma is as spunky and lovable as ever; Azmi and Babbar are appropriately diabolical; and Imran Khan is clever and sexy as a budding revolutionary, whose sidekicks include an old man, a blind preteen, and a transvestite.
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is a must see. Even if you don’t love it, you won’t see anything else quite like it.
I don’t want to set my hopes for Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola too high, but combining the skill of director Vishal Bharadwaj with the talents of actors Anushka Sharma and Imran Khan sounds like a recipe for success.
MKBKM opens in six Chicago area theaters on Friday, January 11, 2013: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.
Last weekend’s new release, Table No. 21, opened to a paltry $31,658 in U.S. theaters, less than half of what Dabangg 2 earned in the same weekend (Dabangg 2‘s third weekend in theaters). Nevertheless, Table No. 21 carries over at the South Barrington 30.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (Telugu) at the River East 21 and Golf Glen 5, which is also showing Alex Pandian (Tamil) and Naayak (Telugu).
Salman Khan films seem to generate a kind of force field. They pull in such a large share of the available audience that there are never any releases of note within a couple of weeks of the release of anything starring Salman Khan. The pattern holds true again for Dabangg 2, which opens on December 21. No new Hindi films are opening in the Chicago area on Friday, December 14, 2012, and there likely won’t be anything new besides Dabangg 2 in area theaters until Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola debuts on January 11, 2013.
In the meantime, there are still a few Bollywood options in local theaters. Based on its impressive U.S. earnings of $2,398,000 so far, Talaash retains the largest share of screenspace, carrying over at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.
Looks like my fears of a prolonged Bollywood drought were unfounded. Two new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on October 19, 2012. Getting the wider release of the two is director Karan Johar’s Student of the Year.
SOTY opens in five area theaters on Friday: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.
Also making its debut is the animated film Delhi Safari. Note that the version releasing this weekend is in Hindi, voiced by Indian actors like Akshaye Khanna and Boman Irani. Fandango‘s capsule description of the movie includes the information for the English-language version of the film releasing on December 7, featuring the voices of Jane Lynch and Cary Elwes.
Delhi Safari opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. It has a runtime of 1 hr. 50 min. If you need added incentive to see the film, take a picture of your Delhi Safari ticket stub and you can win a $50 Toys R’ Us gift card.
The charming English Vinglish continues to perform well at the box office, having earned $1,405,758 in its first two weeks in U.S. theaters. It carries over for a third week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17.